SMEs: Tools for achieving sound strategic intelligence

Manufacturing, the wholesale business, scientific and technological services, construction, even the retail business… In a competitive international market where cycles of technological change are happening faster and faster, Quebec SMEs need to constantly monitor their markets just to keep up.

To anticipate future changes, product evolution or even business opportunities that appear in a new market, strategic intelligence has become an essential ability. The process brings with it its share of challenges. Besides having to determine which information is pertinent to the task, companies need to target which sources to give preference to when gathering information and the way the data stream will be treated. Basically, in a world in which everything has become information, strategic intelligence only has value if the data accumulated are then enriched and synthesized. There are many channels available to Quebec SMEs to accomplish this: Les Affaires, La Presse, Le Devoir and l’Actualité, but also Constructo as well as aggregators like Google News and Google Alerts, which allow alerts to be pre-programmed using a keyword. Social networks can also become a strategic tool thanks to specially themed pages or groups to which you can subscribe.

Economic and regulatory indicators

But those aren’t the only tools available. To keep abreast of a sector’s trends, economic indicators published on a monthly basis by Statistics Canada (for categories such as wholesale business, retail business, etc.) and by the Institut de la Statistique du Québec (ISQ) deliver good indicators on the current state of the market. The Conference Board of Canada also publishes a series of useful data for decision-makers who are looking to appraise the state of the economy. Depending on your trade, you can also refer to Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (also known by its French acronym, MAPAQ), which provides indicators for the retail and wholesale food trade. More locally, institutions like the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) also provide a series of indicators (such as annual inflation rate, construction starts, GDP, employment rate, revenue per capita, etc.) which can deepen your understanding of a market. And don’t forget regulatory indicators, which can also affect a company’s future: Quebec’s Ministry of the Economy, Science and Innovation publishes a regular newsletter, as do more specialized organizations such as Quebec’s Régie du bâtiment for the construction industry, or the Conseil québécois du commerce de detail (CQCD).

Using more specialized resources

There are some more specialized resources, depending on the domain of activity being targeted. Companies in the scientific or technological sector can consult the Organisme de recherche et d’innovation (CEFRIO), which specializes in the digital transformation of organizations, or the Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec (CRIQ), which focuses on innovation, productivity and exports. For those involved in the industrial market, there are organizations like Trans-Tech, which brings together all the applied research centres of Quebec’s colleges and Cegeps (known as the College Centres for the Transfer of Technology, or CCTT), and the Pole de recherche des Innovations et matériaux avancés (PRIMA Quebec), as well as the STIQ (Sous-traitance industrielle Québec), a multi-sector association aiming to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies, or the MEQ network (Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec).

Finally, for sectors like construction that work in concert with regulated professions (such as engineers, architects and surveyors), the appropriate professional association can also be a good source of information. It might also be possible to entrust a portion of your strategic intelligence to external providers (like consulting firms or specialized organizations), who will perform a personalized study based on your criteria.